When I signed up for the National Council of Synagogue Youth Kollel summer program in Israel last fall, little did I know that armed fighting would break out between the Jewish state and the terrorist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
I had no idea that I would have to dash into a bomb shelter at any given moment. But I thought I would have the summer of a lifetime, a learning experience that would strengthen me and give me a greater appreciation for the Jewish homeland.
Shortly after we arrived on Kollel’s campus in Beit Meir, a cooperative settlement near Jerusalem, on July 8, we had a security orientation, where we were instructed what to do should an air raid siren sound. That night we went to the Wailing Wall from the second temple to pray. We were preparing to leave the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem when a siren sounded. As instructed, everybody calmly filed into a nearby store.
Two days later, a siren sounded in Beit Meir, and once again we gathered in the nearest bomb shelter as a missile was intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. Some Kollel participants actually witnessed a missile intercept. “I saw a small streak in the sky flying through the air,” said Yehuda Alter, 16, of Denver. “I then saw a small flash as the Iron Dome intercepted the missile.”
The conflict between Israel and Hamas has complicated life throughout the country, and Kollel is no exception. Due to the danger, Kollel and several other NCSY summer programs relocated to northern Israel for several weeks. Kollel moved to Hispin, in the Golan Heights in northeastern Israel, before returning to Beit Meir on July 31. Since our return, no further sirens have sounded, although several Israeli fighter jets have flown overhead, a reminder that the conflict has not cooled.